The BBC’s Green Agenda & The New Censorship Mentality

  • Date: 07/07/14
  • Andrew Montford, Bishop Hill

The BBC has announced a series of measures to make it more difficult to challenge green narratives on the BBC, and this is obviously going to lead to new waves of ecodrivel on the national broadcaster’s output.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the Guardian’s Catherine Bennett is exuding a certain cheeriness and general satisfaction with this state of affairs.

Following successful complaints, we should soon be hearing much less – on the BBC at least – from the climate change hobbyist Lord Lawson. An edition of the Today programme that treated the former chancellor’s outlandish hunches to the same sober consideration as the evidence-based conclusions of Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, of Imperial College London, has led to an apology – and a further reconsideration of editorial balance. Having assessed the Lawson v the Academic Mainstream dialogue, in which the former remarked that 2013 had been “unusually quiet” for tropical storms, the head of the BBC’s Complaints Unit said: “Minority opinions and sceptical views should not be treated as if it were on an equal footing with the scientific consensus.”

For the avoidance of doubt, tropical storms were indeed unusually low in 2013, so let I will just say charitably that Ms Bennett’s insinuation that it was otherwise suggests she may not be the sharpest tool in the box. But she wouldn’t be the first Guardian journalist to suffer from learning difficulties.

Ms Bennett is also turning her grey matter to the juicy question of who else might be excluded from the airwaves and concludes that religious people should be next.

But proponents of the slippery slope argument must be asking: where will it all end? Is irrationality itself at risk? If a man of Lord Lawson’s stature can be marginalised simply for promulgating obviously fanatical rubbish supported only by anecdote and untested assertions, what could this mean for, say, religious authorities who are deferred to far more regularly than he ever was? Must they, too, be denied their traditional platform, condemning the fashionable consensus on anything from gay marriage and abortion to Sunday trading and the right to die, for no better reason than these activities contravene some personal take on holy writ?

It does seem a little unfair, for example, that while Lawson is discouraged from airing opinions that occasionally had to do with actual weather conditions, a religious campaigner such as Andrea Williams, a member of the General Synod and chief spokesperson for her own pressure group, Christian Concern, should continue to be accepted as a respectable pundit……

Such liberal spirits! Couldn’t they just shortcut the process and silence everyone except the BBC and the Guardian?

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to observe in action the BBC’s new policy of sidelining views outwith the scientific consensus. On the World at One the other day we had a piece on fracking from David Shukman. This was moderately balanced, although not so balanced that Shukman didn’t bring up the old “taps on fire” story (which might be better renamed as the “pants on fire” story – it’s almost as if it’s simply too good a story for the “science” corps at the BBC to let go of). Nevertheless it’s interesting to see it given a completely uncritical airing by Shukman. I had thought that the BBC said that fringe views on science would be announced as such.

But perhaps there’s a get-out for BBC journalists.

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